• United States
Contributing Writer

Will people pay for content online?

Mar 25, 20032 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Recent study indicates that people will and do pay for content online

A coworker and I are constantly battling over the age-old question: Will people pay for content online?

A recent study conducted by the Online Publishers Association and ComScore proves unequivocably that they will and do. In fact, to the tune of $1.3 billion. Compare this to the $670 million consumers spent last year. It’s quite a leap. Also consider that 14.3 million U.S. consumers were paying for online content as of the fourth quarter of 2002. According to the report, that’s 4.3 million more than the year before.

And what are they paying the most for? Online personals and dating services. Yup, that’s the top category for 2002. Also at the top of list are business/investment content (think financial research and services) and entertainment/lifestyles (hodgepodge of digital music, recipes, humor, etc.). Together, these three categories accounted for 63% of last year’s online content spending.

In terms of growth, online personals and dating sites again led the pack. Joining that category was the online greeting card industry. Both showed over 100% growth from the year before.

Another interesting fact to come out of this survey is what folks are willing to pay for this content. According to the report, annual subscriptions were the most popular form of purchasing online content. This method comprised 41% of all online content sales last year. And lest you think trials don’t work, 17.8% of all consumers offered trial subscriptions converted into paid subscribers. That’s an impressive conversion rate considering all the freebies tossed at online consumers.

According to the survey, the average price for annual subscriptions was $48.94 and the average price for monthly subscriptions was $10.32. Landing somewhere in the middle at $22.64 was the average price consumers were paying for single content items.

As a final note, some of the other categories that are gaining ground online are community-made directories (such as the Internet Movie Database), online gaming, general news, and sports (my guess is the fantasy leagues are contributing to this).

What do you think? Will consumers continue to pay for online content? Or will we hit a point where the ubiquity of the Internet leads to content becoming a commodity? Let me know at

To view the Online Publishers Association/ComScore report, visit: